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Outdoor Program

Outdoor Leadership Development Series


A leadership development program for improving competence in the backcountry and leadership in all walks of life.

Who: This series is open to all UW undergraduate and graduate students who share a passion for the outdoors. Enrollment is limited to 12-14 participants, with selection based on an application and interview process.

What: Both classroom and backcountry sessions will be used to provide a foundation for leading others in a wilderness environment. Each component of the series will focus on one or more of the following: improving technical skills, applying leadership methods, and obtaining medical training. 

Participants will have a chance to hear from guest speakers, discuss cutting edge theories and materials, participate in various types of outdoor activities, and assist on Outdoor Program trips. OLDS students will obtain a number of possible certifications including: OLDS Graduate, Leave No Trace Trainer, and Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder.

When: The year-long series runs from September through May. 


Successful participants will...

  • Go on one multi-day OLDS trip each semester (backpacking trip in the fall with a Leave No Trace Trainer Certification, and a winter backcountry trip in the spring semester).
  • In the fall, perform one trip "observation" of an OP trip and participate in monthly OLDS meeting
  • Complete a wilderness-focused medical training of your choosing (Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder)
  • Perform one trip "assist" in the spring semester
  • Take a three-credit ENR 2800 course, Introduction to Outdoor Leadership, which includes a 5-7 day small-group spring break backpacking expedition
  • Commit to all program components, including the academic course and the spring break expedition

The following calendar provides most information applicants should need to decide if they can commit to the entire program.

Cost: The series is free for those accepted; discounts are available to cover the costs of additional medical training and certifications (the cost of tuition for the ENR course and required book is not covered).

Applications are due by Friday, September 16, 2016. For an application, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are you looking for in an OLDS candidate?

Key traits in an ideal OLDS candidate include a serious commitment to the program, a strong interest in the outdoors, a desire to improve themselves and their skills, a supportive and inclusive attitude, and a sense of adventure. We are looking for a diverse set of students who have the desire and capacity to become great leaders. 

Things that are not very important are technical outdoor skills, extensive leadership experience, or impressive outdoor accomplishments. We encourage everyone to apply, regardless of outdoor experience. We also screen candidates based upon the number of commitments they are undertaking.

What is the purpose of the OLDS? What will I get from it?

OLDS is intended to train you into an effective beginner outdoor leader and educator. We teach transferable leadership skills such as group development, managing risk, understanding heuristic traps as well as outdoor-focused "hard" skills such as winter travel, backpacking, minimum impact camping skills, and wilderness-based medical training. This program will prepare you to begin a career leading and guiding professionally; if you decide not to continue in the outdoors, you will retain leadership skills that will benefit you in any job or academic environment.

What commitments are asked of OLDS participants?

Commitment is vital to the success of this program. In addition to a willingness to be a valuable group member, the following are the things you commit to if you are offered a space in OLDS:


  • Attend a backpacking trip (First weekend in October)
  • Attend meetings once per month (~2 hours)
  • Shadow an Outdoor Program trip
  • Become certified in either Wilderness First Aid (free) or Wilderness First Responder (discounted)


  • Attend a weekend yurt trip at the beginning of the semester (typically the weekend prior to the start of school)
  • Complete ENR 2800: Introduction to Outdoor Leadership (3 credits)
  • Assist on an Outdoor Program trip
  • Plan and execute a small-group backpacking trip to Southeast Utah over Spring Break
  • Attend additional skills-training meetings on a biweekly or monthly basis

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